Pitching Literary Agents (I’m On The Other Side Of The Pitching Fence Now)


I just sent off my first group of email pitches to literary agents. This is a whole new process for me, although of course I have plenty of experience with The Pitch. It’s just that I’ve been the one pitched to over the past ten years. During my time as a tech blogger, I received thousands of pitches from entrepreneurs, tech companies and PR people. It’ll do me good to be on the other side of the fence.

I’ve always tried to be humble with people pitching me. I not only recognise that people are passionate about the things they build, but I admire that quality a great deal. Over the past few years I’ve felt that tech bloggers – as a profession – have become too arrogant about getting pitches, particularly from PR professionals. My view is that it’s an honour to be pitched.

That said, as the pitcher you have to do your research. That’s the golden rule. I’m still getting startup pitches, even to my new email that isn’t associated with ReadWrite. Which tells me that before emailing me, that person didn’t take even a few minutes to find out my current status. Just as those people won’t get a reply from me, I won’t get a reply if I send off my pitch to a literary agent who specialises in cooking books. So, do your research.

Before I sent off my pitch to literary agents, I tried to find out who might be open to representing me as an author. I discovered a couple of websites devoted to literary agents, from the author’s point of view:http://aaronline.org/DirLit (Association of Authors’ Representatives) andhttp://querytracker.net/. I found the second one particularly useful, as I could search for literary agents by genre and even see who they rep.

I discovered that there are a heck of a lot of agents out there. A search on QueryTracker for agents who want “narrative nonfiction” came back with over 400. When I began to look at the details and websites of some of the agents, as well as user reviews of agents by prospective authors, it became apparent that literary agents get A LOT of book pitches. That’s not surprising – and it’s not that different from the overwhelming volume of pitches I received as a blogger.

After researching potential agents, including checking out their blogs and Twitter accounts if they had them (and many were on Twitter), I came up with a shortlist of 7 literary agents who might be open to my book proposal. I was pleased to see that all of them preferred to receive pitches by email. With that initial research done, and after spending all of yesterday crafting my message, I sent my book pitches off into the ether…

Knowing the experience of being pitched, I’m pretty sure that some of the agents – maybe most, or even all – won’t reply. Of course I’m hoping that most of them will and I’m confident that I made a strong case in my email. But the reality for anyone pitching anything is that you can’t expect a reply. As a blogger, I tended to only reply to pitches that were in my areas of interest at the time I received them (e.g. a health tech startup had a much greater chance of receiving a reply from me earlier this year than an enterprise startup). Likewise, the agents I emailed will probably only reply to me if the topic I proposed appeals to them. Although the other thing going for me is that I have a strong personal brand, which is always a good thing no matter what you’re pitching.

Let’s see what happens. It’s good to be on the other side of the fence again, even though this side is the far more difficult one.


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